Thursday, 22 January 2015

A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT - Review By Greg Klymkiw - How can a Spaghetti Noir Vampire Chick in Iran NOT be cool? Stunning directorial debut from Kino Lorber, opens TIFF Bell Lightbox, The Royal Cinema via VSC (Video Services Corp)

This is what you could meet in lovely Iran.
Iranian Bloodsucker in a Chador
A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2014)
Dir. Ana Lily Amirpour
Starring: Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi,
Marshall Manesh, Mozhan Marnò, Dominic Rains

Review By Greg Klymkiw

There aren't too many vampire movies these days like A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night. In fact, there aren't any at all, but now that this one exists, we can all repress the stench of the abominable Twilight series. What we've got here pretty much blows all recent blood-sucker extravaganzas away.

It's not only a genuinely terrific picture, but it's all in Farsi, the language of Iran, where, incidentally the movie is set (though, amazingly, it was shot in southern California). The movie is staggeringly original, yet at the same time, owes a debt of gratitude to Jim Jarmusch, David Lynch, Sergio Leone, Guy Maddin and James Whale.

Decent bedfellows all, especially for the film's director, a young Iranian-American lassie who makes her feature length debut with this moving picture graphic novel that could well have sprung from the loins of Frank Miller if he was a woman from Iran and wasn't a misogynist.

Nothing sexier than the scent of a jugular vein
The movie itself is light on plot, which is really no matter. Besides, story is more than one plot-point after another. When narrative can be imbued with the poetic qualities of cinema, so often neglected, forgotten or simply not attainable, then story takes on a richness that all the Robert-McKee-influenced product, machine-tooled by hacks, can never, nor will ever, attain. This is a narrative driven by style, theme, mood, character and setting.

And what a setting!

Bad City is practically a ghost town smack in the middle of some desolate plain in Iran, surrounded by endless rows of unmanned oil pumps seesawing ceaselessly and deeply into the flat, dusty earth. In the distance, desolate factories belch clouds of smoke into the atmosphere, the sunny skies blotted out by the filth of pollution.

A lone whore wanders aimlessly on the streets at night, hoping ever-so desperately that someone, anyone will drive by or walk up to her for a cheap fuck or blow job, anything, no matter how degrading will do to avoid being beaten to a pulp by her pimp for not turning enough tricks.

Daylight is murky, nighttime is murkier still, pools of light from high pressure sodium street lamps cast their eerie glow upon the forlorn streets, flanked by dollops of pitch black shadow. If anything, the subtext of the film is found within the shades of grey. Black and white are the pillars holding it all up, but the depth resides twixt those visual support beams of light and darkness.

Somewhere in Bad City is a vampire.

Not that anyone would notice or even care. Life is cheap. Bodies appear, then disappear. Corpses are tossed casually just outside of town into a ditch. The men are (mostly) pigs, the women are invisible and/or abused. The brutish sex in Bad City are pimps, pushers, addicts, drunks, unemployed, slave-class labourers and/or all of the above. Homes appear squalid, their interiors are even more squalid. There's little to do and pretty much nowhere to go. The one nightclub is full of ecstasy-popping babes and scumbags.

At times, we feel like we're in a dreamscape that could only exist in the movies. Of course, I never have a problem with that, but as the film progresses, we're creepily affected by a world that feels as real as it is fantastical. This is a country of waste, repression, rape of the land, rape of the soul and the clear suppression, or rape, if you will, of women's rights. Oil, the ever-present oil being pumped, seems to be the only life or at least, vigorous movement, in this somnambulistic, backward, backyard of despair.

Escape seems to be the only way to avoid death, or at least, a living death, but everyone seems too beaten down to even bother thinking about it. Flight at the end of a needle or the lip of a bottle or whatever can be popped down the gullet, all seem to be the easiest way to dull the pain and, perhaps, allow Bad City's denizens to imagine a better world.

Arash (Arash Varandi) is a hardworking young (and almost ludicrously handsome) jack-of-all-trades who lives with his drug addict father Hossein (Marshall Manesh). The lad's prize possession is a pristine T-Bird which is snatched from him by Saeed (Dominic Rains), a foul pimp/dealer/loan-shark who takes it as a payment he's owed for a debt incurred by Dad.

Pops once had something resembling class, but now he's an addled bum, obsessed with the whore Atti (Mozhan Marnò) who reminds him of his late wife, but who, in turn, refuses to acknowledge his pathetic existence unless he's got money to buy her grudging attention and/or respect.

There is, however, a mysterious, exotic and gorgeous young woman (Sheila Vand) who slowly creeps about the streets at night in a full traditional chador.

She's no whore. She's a vampire on the prowl for blood. Her tastes, however, appear limited to exploitative misogynistic men.

Luckily for Arash, he's a sensitive lad, not deserving of having his throat torn out by her fangs, but one of the vampire's victims conveniently opens an opportunity for our hero to secure wads of dough, scads of drugs and the return of his beloved Ford T-Bird coupe.

SHEILA VAND is pretty HOT too!!!
Even more pleasingly, the vampire takes a liking to Arash (in one of the most perverse meet-cutes, like, EVER) and he, of course, to her.

Why not? They're young, smoulderingly intense and, uh, HOT! So what if she's the walking dead? Living in Bad City with a drug addicted father makes him just as undead. Mais non?

Will love conquer all?

Will escape be a viable option?

Will Bad City become a distant memory?

The answers to these questions will all be found in this compulsively engrossing, gorgeously photographed (in beautiful monochrome) and yes, often creepy and scary immersion into the delectable depths of feminist revenge fantasy with a to-die-for soundtrack and a pace so hypnotic that filmmaker Amirpour might well be more than a mere artist.

She's a Class-A mesmerist and as such, watching the movie is to fall under her spell of magic and to emerge pumped, enriched and convinced you've seen one of the most original movies in years.


A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night from Kino Lorber is in theatrical release across Canada via VSC (Video Services Corp) with Toronto playdates at TIFF Bell Lightbox and The Royal Cinema. Keep your eyes peeled. You won't want to miss this for anything.